Poem of the Year:
May 2017-Apr 2018

Judged by Joyce Kelley and Kim Leifer

1st Place

Caught In The Light Bucket

by Brenda Levy Tate
June 2017

SM0313 – age 13.6 billion years

When this beam first began, God may have slept
between the newest universe and the last. We give
a holy name to him; we credit his hands. The Sistine
finger tempts us with fires from no fires; lands
from no lands; suns wheeling backward
unsparked, to edges where nothing matters,
where matter is nothing.

All dross has vapoured away – time’s scintillae,
just like mine. Water and air now. I release gravity
from my arms; the scope sings, deep as rubbed glass.
We both listen to harmonics of the plasmic jar
while night brushes against us: its alto hum,
shushing around the observatory. Sky’s voice.
Then quiet.

I cant the reflector barrel, apply an eye,
as this oldest star in the cosmos waggles
its corona within my Milky Way – scooped up,
a spaceborn orphan that has since outlived every
possible parent it might have claimed.
I have drawn it now, too, from the rift between
where it started and where it needs to go.

We loved the poem "Caught in the Light Bucket." The imagery and word choice in this poem are beautiful and the relationship between the human observer and the star is fascinating. The language of the poem is riveting. Lines like "to edges where nothing matters, / where matter is nothing" are beautifully worded (the chiasmus here creates a stunning effect). The poem captures that unfathomable feeling of deep time and space, and the odd longing that comes from thinking too much about it. --Joyce Kelley and Kim Leifer

2nd Place

(how to lose at) Kimberly’s Game

by John Wilks
The Write Idea
April 2018

love is akin to gravity, the weak force that embraces all,
that holds planets in thrall, much as my cupped hand holds my lover’s balls

I wanted to write a story about where I was when the bombs
began to fall, the smiling man whose bearded face filled my crosshairs,
the trigger that I failed to pull

I have a title, but no words
to follow, do not know the rules of Kimberly’s Game (she says rhyme
predicates a lack of reason)

the forecast is for snow, for winds
to sweep down from Siberia and augurs that most English form
of hysteria, when we sow rock salt across the marriage bed
and do not give a frozen fuck

let us return to love, to love,
to Hallmark verse and top ten songs, to lists of virtues, lists of wrongs
and pretend drawn hearts make us strong

I have another tale to tell,
a sequel to a false account of London in postmodern times,
whose ruins are a monument to paranoia and cement
and faces monitored for crimes, not innocence, but the amount
of information they can sell (remember pussy in the well?
she is still drowning, sound the knell)

I wake up when I want, when light
over-peeks the curtains and kids scream all the way to school, while you
present me with your morning wood

love is not greatly understood,
the universe does not appear to hold sufficient love to prove
its own existence, no matter how nonsensical that may sound

no more fairy stories, no more fairground rides, no coloured bulb lit
circles to wind the dark around, no nights beneath the magic mound

it ends where love ends, where games reach their conclusion, one final throw
of that weighted dice, that last piece taken from the board, that marked card
sneaked back up my sleeve, that table overturned, that fiddled score card
thrust into your face, you loser

"(how to lose at) Kimberly's Game" was one of the most creative poems submitted. The imagery was constantly surprising and shocking, and I loved the way the poem combined profound lines with descriptions reminding me of T. S. Eliot with hard-edged modern language. The poem has an interesting combination of old and new (in reference, language, allusion) and gets more fascinating each time it is read. The exact nature of the relationship and "game" are also interesting to imagine. --Joyce Kelly and Kim Leifer

3rd Place

Goldback Fern

by Bob Bradshaw
The Writer's Block
February 2018

Under bay laurels we looked up
at insects flitting

through a lemony light.
In the distance sunlit clouds

brushed the grassy hills blond,
the way the goldback fern’s underside

leaves behind a yellow dusting.
You pressed one against my jeans,

a golden handprint on my right thigh.
We lingered, hiking slowly,

the moist fingers of ferns
stroking our wrists,

our arms. With narrow trails
I found easy excuses to brush

against you, carrying your scent
home with me.

"Goldback Fern" is an absolutely beautiful poem, sweet and perfect in every line. I love the way the fern's "dusting" from its spores lingers on the couple in love, and the way the marking of the dusting turns to scent by the end of the poem--a special marking of love. Everything about the poem was beautiful, and I enjoyed the almost arbitrary two-line groupings, which added to the nonchalant feeling of the poem. --Joyce Kelley and Kim Leifer

Honorable Mention


by Paul A. Freeman
The Write Idea
August 2017

I’ve been ill-used, no other word will do;
pristinely packaged, sanitised and new
a month ago I stood upon display
till someone paid to carry me away.

Once home, he placed me in a cup whose rim
was chipped and whose interior was grim.
Upon a shelf, inside his smallest room,
I stayed, alone, to contemplate my doom.

Next morning he adorned my head with gel –
my bristles had a fresh and minty smell.
But then he raised me up into his mouth
and brushed from east to west, from north to south.

I rubbed against decaying slabs of brown,
deep cavities, raw gums, a tarnished crown,
till finally he scrubbed his furry tongue,
an organ as malodorous as dung.

Each morning since, I’ve gagged upon his breath,
that rancid cavern’s stench is worse than Death,
with plaque and gummed up lips that dribble goo –
I’ve been ill-used, no other word will do.

"Ill-used" was very funny, with steady iambic rhythm, precise rhyme, and excellent (and disgusting) imagery. This poem gets bonus points for creativity; not many poets would think to write from the perspective of a toothbrush. The poem is spectacularly funny, with its formal elements and language adding to the humor of this horrible relationship. --Joyce Kelley and Kim Leifer